Traveling to Europe can be extremely eye-opening for many Americans. For those who have never left the United States, Europe is quite literally another ball game. Across the continent there are a number of different languages spoken, and cultures and traditions to understand, and Italy is no exception.
The cultural powerhouse that is Italy still maintains a number of rich Italian customs and traditions that date back centuries. The country that gave birth to the Renaissance and world-renowned food, Italy is loved by millions and can be compared to very few.
So, before you go, here are 10 things to know when traveling to Italy:
1. Italians love to eat.. and talk about it
Food is the most important part of Italian culture. Not only do they love to eat food but they really value good quality food. Unlike the US, eating in Italy is not about quantity, it’s about quality. There is always time to stop and eat in Italy and there is always time to wait for a home cooked meal – you will find it difficult to find fast food in these cities. Meals are not quick practical moments to keep you alive, in Italy meals are social times with wine and bread to start, and can last well over two hours.
2. Italians also like to talk about their emotions
If you don’t speak Italian then it can sometimes seem as though every Italian just loves to argue. This is simply not true, they are an extremely passionate people but it doesn’t always mean what you might think. Italians prefer to talk things out, however difficult that gets until it is resolved, they will usually enjoy a loving hug at the end – it’s therapeutic and healthy.
3. The produce is fresh and local
In every local store or major grocers in Italy you will find only the highest quality food for sale. Italy’s stores don’t sell the processed foods that you can find in some US supermarkets, they mostly offer customers tasty fresh alternatives, like local vegetables and meat that has been locally butchered.
4. They say it like it is
In the US we sometimes hold back our thoughts and feelings so as not to offend the person we are talking about, not in Italy. Italians will do this most often when it comes to weight. They are not afraid to comment on a person’s weight, and have even been known to talk about strangers’ weight. This partly relates to the first point, they love food and as a result they believe thin people need to eat more!
5. Italians do not rush
Life in an Italian city is of a slow nature. There is very little rushing to get places, especially not to work, and they are very happy about it. This can mean longer lines in the post office than you might find in the US, but you will be happier for it!
6. They have an impeccable fashion sense
Italians dress well, there’s no denying that. OK, so you might find some well dressed people in the major cities, such as New York and Chicago, but in Italy it’s another level. Italians put effort into how they look on a day-to-day basis, and it’s wonderful to watch. Not only this but it’s also wonderful to be a part of it. Home to some of the most famous designers in the world, Milan and Rome offer designer shopping districts that offer shopping heaven.
7. Italians love romance
Everything about Italy is romantic, especially when you travel there as a tourist. The idea of courtship and dating are important in Italian culture, you may have heard about this or seen it in movies and a lot of the time it is true. Get into the spirit and enjoy the romance of some of the world’s most famous romantic landmarks, such as Romeo and Juliet’s balcony in Verona and the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
8. There’s less personal space
From a practical point of view, Italy’s cities are smaller and more compact than any part of the US, less land and plenty of people means less space. The people in Italy are used to living like that, and brushing up against a person does not warrant the word “sorry”or the phrase “excuse me,” it’s just a part of Italian life, so don’t worry about it!
There is no other country in the world that embraces the aperitivo (the afternoon drink and snack) like Italy does. As soon as you order a drink in a place at around 6pm a delicious buffet of food will appear that will be somehow included in the price. Bliss.
10. Ice is not important
In the US if you order a cold drink the chances are it will be poured over a glass full of ice cubes. In Italy if you ask for ice you in your soft drink you might get one or two cubes, but it probably won’t be filled with ice. On the plus side you get more drink!
Italian Customs and Traditions
Use our detailed list of 10 Things to Know When Traveling to Italy to get a better idea of what to expect upon arrival during your next vacation. Blend in seamlessly, and get local insider information about the best off-the-beaten path attractions and restaurants when you show respect to Italian customs and traditions.